Article Source Community-cation
June 1, 2009, 1:37 pm

A few years back, when I was volunteering at a local hospital’s front desk, a delivery courier came in and asked where the lab was, since he had a rush delivery.

As I started to give him directions, I looked down at the package he held, curiosity getting the better of me. Among all of the official print and biohazard warnings, were the words “Live Animals: Leeches.” Given that I was sitting in the lobby of a moden health care facility in the early part of the 21st Century, this was a delivery I certainly wasn’t expecting.

Since then, I have learned that, indeed, leeches are often used in medical techniques, particularly where surgeons and physicians need a patent’s blood to not clot. They provide a natural, low-impact method to prevent coalguation… so even if the “ick” factor is really high, leeches still have a valued use in today’s medicine.

It’s with this bit of knowledge that I approach the whole “leeches” in open source meme that’s been floating around of late.

Michael Scharf of the Eclipse Project got things going last month in a blog entry that railed against “freeloaders”: those users who use Eclipse (because it’s free) and don’t contribute back (because–according to Scharf–they’re parasites).

This has been said before, though not quite so vehemently. This ComputerWorld article reminded me that Dave Rosenberg of MuleSource has often lamented consumers of MuleSource technology who didn’t contribute back to the MuleSource code.

Over the years, this argument keeps coming up every once in a while, and every time it does, I find it short-sighted at best.

First off, while no one knows the percentage of open source users who actually give back to the project that they use, I’d predict it’s somewhere around one or two percent, on average. And that’s a semi-educated guess, mind you. Whatever the number is, it’s never going to equal 100 percent. There will always be more users than contributors…and that’s a good thing.

I reject the notion that any user is a freeloader or a leech. At the very least, they are vectors for your software, getting it out there in real-world environments to show to other potential users. They’ll see it in action, ask about it, and then perhaps pick it up for themselves. Maybe they’ll buy it, contribute to it, or maybe they will just use it for free, too.

This perpetuating chain of free users doesn’t sound that great, either, especially to commercial vendors. But here’s the real gift these users bring to a project, where they’re contributing to it or not: they’re going to use the software.

By use it, I mean bend it, twist it, mash it, smash it, and shove it onto platforms and into tasks it was never designed to do. And yes, they will break it.

And when they break it, they will either complain to you or they will complain to the rest of the world. Isn’t that great?

Actually, it is a good thing, though at the time it may seem like a pain in the butt. What’s actually happened is that you’ve been handed a opportunity to make your software a little better. Use it.

Stop complaining about leeches and freeloaders; get in front of them and put them to good use.

Article Source Jim Zemlin’s Blog
June 1, 2009, 7:42 am

There was an interesting announcement from Eduardo Lima of the Canola project in his speech in Mozilla Maemo Danish Weekend yesterday in Brazil. The Canola project announced that they are going to license their project with additional permissions to GPLv3 in order to provide their code “in different kinds of business models and product offerings, especially in CE devices.” This is the first times that this particular permission is being used. The GPLv3 license is an important one and developers should be aware of the facts and motivations in this particular case.

What is the Canola project?

Canola is a media center like application for tablets. Canola was born as a finger oriented, portable media center that could allow consumers to play all of their media, both local and from the network. The main goal of the project is to provide an easy to user interface for Linux systems. Their work is used in tablets offered by companies like Nokia.

Why are they choosing the GPLv3 plus this additional permission?

According to the project, “We believe this additional permission enables wider use of Canola2 in different kinds of business models and product offerings, especially in CE devices. This additional permission combines the best parts of GPLv2 and GPLv3 experiences. We encourage other projects to consider use of this additional permission if they have similar needs.”

What is the specific permission language?

“The copyright holders grant you an additional permission under Section 7 of the GNU General Public License, version 3, exempting you from the requirement in Section 6 of the GNU General Public License, version 3, to accompany Corresponding Source with Installation Information for the Program or any work based on the Program. You are still required to comply with all other Section 6 requirements to provide Corresponding Source.”

What does this permission mean?

Basically it means what it says. It relieves the licensee from the obligation that it would otherwise have under section 6 of GPLv3 to include installation information along with corresponding source for the program in question or any work based on that program.

Is this permission compatible with GPLv3?

Yes. Section 7 of GPLv3 allows copyright holders to issue additional permissions and the experts that we have contacted tell us that this additional permission is compliant with section 7, and has been written according to the requirements of GPLv3.

Who else might use this permission language?

Developers who would like their code to be used in systems where the particular producer of those devices or systems might not use the software at all if it was required to provide installation information along with the source code.

Is that a good thing?

Some people favor the ability to provide additional permissions to GPLv3 and others do not. However, the drafters of the GPLv3 decided that it was appropriate to provide the freedom to include exceptions by including section 7 for this purpose.

Have other people looked at this language?

Members of the Linux Foundation have looked at this language and deem it to be legally acceptable and appropriate for this particular use.

What do they think about its substance?

The foundation and its members all believe that licensing choice is ultimately up to the developers and owners of a project. We are concerned, however, with whether the language of popular licenses is legally clear, and also with the fact that having too many licenses and license variations can become confusing.

Regardless of where you come down on the debate as to whether these permissions should be granted, it is clear that this language is effective and that its consistent use will be helpful for those projects and developers that DO wish to provide a similar exception to the GPLv3.

Article Source Linus Torvalds’s Blog
May 28, 2009, 12:54 pm
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Somebody in the comments wondered how I have time to read so much.. Part of it is simply that reading is my only real hobby (scuba? Sure – one week a year. Reading? 51 weeks a year). So I literally spend my time either in front of my computer or reading – and I don’t waste it on commuting.

Another part obviously ends up being that I’m just a fast reader. Oh, I know people who read faster, but if it’s some easily read sci-fi or fantasy, I’ll read at a pace of 100-150 pages per hour, and you simply cannot distract me while I’m reading. Try to talk to me, and I won’t hear a word.

So most books I finish in a single sitting, and weekends I might read two books in a day. The more sciency books I read take longer, but that may explain why I probably average about three books per week, and sometimes do many more – especially during the later parts of the merge window when things aren’t as hectic on the kernel front.

Anyway, the haul over the last couple of weeks has been mostly random stuff (Fire Upon the Deep by Vernon Vinge, Golden Torc by Simon Green, Turn Coat by Jim Butcher, The Laurentine Spy by Emily Gee). Don’t ask me what the common thread is, because there is none. Some were randomly picked up from the book store in desperation over not having anything at all to read, others were things I’d read the authors before. I enjoyed them all, in different ways.

On the non-fluff front, I read Phantoms int he Brain by V.S. Ramachandran, based on a recommendation in the comments of the last reading post. I have to say, it is a better book than The Brain that Changes Itself (the one that triggered the recommendation), but at the same time I was also a bit disappointed with it.

Why? All the chapters on different disorders were absolutely fascinating, but then the last chapter just stood out as a big disappointment. It seems that any time that people start discussing “qualia” and guessing about what consciousness is, otherwise sane and coherent people end up being just confused and crazy (example: Roger Penrose). Ramachandran avoids the outright crazy, but chapter 12 ended up being a big disappointment to an otherwise engrossing book for me. But even that disappointing chapter had interesting content in it.

So, highly recommended, despite the small nagging feeling that the last chapter really could have been so much better. Most of the book is about the fascinating ways the brain fails at what it’s supposed to do, and what it teaches us about how people really function.

The other non-fluff book was Bart Ehrman’s “Jesus Interrupted”, a kind of follow-up to the earlier Misquoting Jesus that I read some time ago. Bible study is actually fairly interesting, although in many ways I always thought the Old Testament was way more interesting. Ehrman, of course, concentrates pretty much exclusively on just the New Testament, with just passing mention of OT issues as they relate to NT issues. The book was also the inspiration for the current kernel naming (“Man-Eating Seals of Antiquity”), since it fit perfectly with my pattern of nonsensical animal-related naming scheme.

Recommended. Not nearly as engrossing as Phantoms, but an interesting read none-the-less.

Article Source Linus Torvalds’s Blog
May 26, 2009, 4:00 pm

limitations.jpgI’ve always liked the demotivational posters from despair.com a lot more than those inane motivational ones. And this one obviously hits close to home.

So what do our neighbors bring with them when we invite them for a BBQ? Yup.

Do my friends know me or what? Of course, my favourite is probably the one that says something like “The point of your life may be just to act as a warning to others”, but that one doesn’t have penguins.

The downside to actually finally having the physical thing, of course, is that I’m not much for hanging things up. So it will probably end up propped up in my office somewhere, adding to the general messiness.

As we approach the Memorial Day holiday weekend here in the US, I didn’t want to leave without mentioning some additions to our Guru Points system.

When we started the site, it was clear that there were many untapped opportunities for gaining points on Linux.com that did not have earnable points assigned to them. It was, essentially, a simple case of not wanting to delay the launch of the site–we have such a list of things to implement on Linux.com that if we’d waited to complete them all, we’d still be in beta. Better, it was decided, to get things kicked off early and release changes as we go.¬†

Sound familiar?

The changes we made this week are to the Guru system. We are going to start adding point values to items on the site that deal more with content, as well as the social aspects. To that end, registered users will now gain points for participating in our Answers section.  If you ask a question, you will receive three points. If you can answer a question, you will be rewarded five points. Keep in mind, questions and answers are moderated, so they need to be solid Q&As.

You can also earn points now for adding items to the Directory (3 pts) and reviewing a Directory item (2 pts). Again, the Directory entries are moderated, so check first for the item you want to enter to avoid duplicates.

In keeping with the social side of the Guru Points system, registered users will now receive five points for inviting unique friends to Linux.com.

I’ve updated the points listings throughout the site, but here is the current list, too:

Ask a Question: 3 pts
Answer a Question: 5 pts
Add an Item to the Directory: 3 pts
Review an Item in the Directory: 2 pts
Add New Group: 3 pts
Add New Group Discussion: 2 pts
Leave Group: -3 pts
Invite Friends: 5 pts
Approve Friend Request: 1 pt
Add New Photo Album: 1 pt
Post Group Wall: 1 pt
Join Group: 1 pt
Reply Group’s Discussion: 1 pt
Post Wall: 1 pt
Profile Update: 1 pt
Update group: 1 pt 

I hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable weekend!

Even launching something as big as Linux.com, it’s the little things that mean the most as the site enters its second full week of operation. Late last week, we received the first community contributed article on Linux.com.

The article was a well-done, brief tutorial on installing openSUSE 11.1 on a desktop system, from TGodfrey. It’s simple, direct, and walks readers through the basic steps of openSUSE installation. In short, it was exactly the kind of tutorial wanted for Linux.com. There is method behind this constant state of article acquisitiveness; the more content built into Linux.com, the better resource the site becomes for the community–both new and veteran users.

Of course, there is the question of how to get your article on Linux.com. Right now, the answer is simple: e-mail your submission to
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
. Eventually, we will have a direct article submission form on the site, where you can enter and format your tutorial with minimum hassle. At that time, Guru points will rewarded for each published article. (Don’t worry, early folks, we’re keeping track of user-contributed articles, and we’ll add your points retroactively.)

I’ve been asked what kind of tutorials are needed. Again, a simple answer: basically any aspect of Linux operation is wanted. The site has great content now, but there’s plently of opportunity to provide help on topics such as installation, configuration, and troubleshooting for applications, environments, shells, development, and distributions. They don’t have to be long treatises; they just need to be clear and factual guides to getting things done with Linux.

Which is something we’re all interested in.

Article Source Jim Zemlin’s Blog
May 19, 2009, 9:16 am

Today, the Moblin project released Moblin v2.0 for Netbooks and Nettops to beta. If you haven’t seen the innovation present in Moblin, I urge you to watch this video that showcases the Moblin v2.0 Netbook UI experience.

What I find particularly compelling about Moblin is its understanding and expression of the way users actually use netbooks. Instead of the local, static form of computing of the past, netbook users want an experience centered on social network and media. Moblin fuels this transition through its visually rich user interface designed on Clutter technology. Moblin is an experience more than just a user interface.

With the new UI, the M-Zone becomes your home screen, giving you access to the live data you actually need. The M-Zone provides instant access to your synchronized calendar, tasks, appointments, recently used files and real time updates from your friends on social networking sites. A Moblin tool bar is also provided for easy navigation at the top of the screen, which remains hidden until you need it. Because Moblin has been designed from the ground up to be optimized for Internet content and media consumption, the platform reflects the live experience people are looking for in netbooks.

Moblin isn’t just about netbooks and nettops. Moblin is optimized for Intel Atom Processor-based devices including MIDs, netbooks, nettops, in-vehicle infotainment (IVI), and embedded systems.

Developers and users who want to be a part of a new UI framework should check this out. Please see Moblin team member Imad Sousou’s blog with more detail on how you can get involved with the project and give feedback on this release.

Article Source Jim Zemlin’s Blog
May 18, 2009, 7:11 am

Today the Linux Foundation issued a joint letter with Microsoft to the American Law Institute regarding a draft of their Principles of the Law of Software Contracts.

Who is the American Law Institute (ALI)

The ALI is a hardworking group that engages legal experts around the country who write “restatements of the law” or legal treatises in hopes that judges will use them in deciding cases. In order to participate in this process you need to be a member. You have to pay a fee to access material, and there is no public review prior to publication. This is why we decided to participate in drafting this open letter.

Why is this important?

The principles outlined by the ALI interfere with the natural operation of open source licenses and commercial licenses as well by creating implied warranties that could result in a tremendous amount of unnecessary litigation, which would undermine the sharing of technology.

There are times when we can agree

Sam Ramji, Microsoft’s Senior Director of Open Source and Linux Strategy, recently attended the Linux Foundation Collaboration to participate in a panel titled, “Why we can’t all get along.” While Sam heard a lot from people in the Linux world about where we disagree, he also pointed out that there are areas where we can agree and work together for the betterment of users of technology. This is one of those cases.

As Horacio E. Gutiérrez, Microsoft Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel points out in his blog and the letter also states:

“Notwithstanding our varying approaches to the licensing and distribution of software, we share a common desire for a sound, effective commercial law framework for software contracts that reflects business and community realities. Such a framework will ultimately increase the variety and functionality of software available, benefitting both businesses and consumers.”

Today we are finding common ground with Microsoft and we look forward to potential collaboration in the future as well as to competing in the market and keeping each other honest.

Article Source Community-cation
May 14, 2009, 12:45 pm
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So far, the response to the new Linux.com has been really positive and, save for a few glitches here and there, we’veÂ¬â  been very happy with how the launch has gone thus far. As we transition from launch mode to operations mode, it’s worth taking a little time to reflect on what we’re going to be doing on Linux.com.

The question has come up from readers and pundits alike about what we hope to accomplish. The most succinct is from Dana Blankenhorn, who asked what community we’d be serving.

“The answer can be drawn either narrowly or broadly. Narrowly, itâÃôs about the Linux operating system and applications that run on Linux. Broadly, itâÃôs also about open source, the community ethos arising from it, the values of those communities, and the future of the Internet.

“These are questions publishers, editors and writers are constantly fussing over. The editorâÃôs answer is it depends on what the readers want. The publisherâÃôs answer is it depends on what the advertiser wants, what the market the site seeks to serve wants.

“It will be fun to see how the Linux Foundation, a non-profit consortium, answers that question over the next weeks, months and years. YâÃôall are a publisher now.”

In the strictest sense of the word, Dana’s got a point–because we’re hosting and manging this web site, the LF is indeed a publisher. But his label might diverge from our take on Linux.com. As things settle into place, the readers will help be the editors and the determinators of what will be going on the site.

I think the biggest thing in making a community like Linux.com successful is let the community guide itself. It’s really easy to try to say “I want this community to do this” and then be immediately frustrated when “this” isn’t on the community’s agenda.

This isn’t to say it’s all free-form; some limits can be set, just like any other community. Linux.com will always be about Linux and we should always try to make Linux accessible to as many people as possible.

Something I saw in a webinar a while back has stuck with me as we built Linux.com: a good way to motivate a community is to let its members be the expert in something. So if you want to show off your mad Linux skilz,Â¬â  then Linux.com will give you the chance.

Now, back to work…

Article Source News and Thoughts from Inside the Linux Foundation
May 13, 2009, 7:35 am

I am pleased to announce the launch of the new Linux.com, the fruition of many months of hard work from nearly everyone at the Linux Foundation, but especially Dan Lopez and Brian Proffitt. While I’m sure we still have much work to do, I think the site has turned out very well. I’m especially pleased with how we’ve worked with the community through our Ideaforge site to collaboratively develop ideas and content on the site. (Ideaforge users have had access to the site over the last few weeks in a private beta.)

Highlights of the site for me:

  • The Linux Guru Directory. We have a saying, ‚Äúcode is the new resume.‚Äù With the transparency of the Internet, those who participate and showcase their skills are best positioned for success. Users of Linux.com can gain Linux guru status for answering questions, reviewing products, submitting tutorials or much more. The top user every year receives a dream laptop signed by no other than Linus Torvalds. You can find out more here.
  • DistroCentral. Linux is strong because of choice, but sometimes the myriad of distributions can be confusing to users. To alleviate that we went directly to the source, the community managers and developers of the top Linux distributions: Debian, Fedora, OpenSuse and Ubuntu. You can read content directly from these experts as well as browse a directory of distributions (and applications for Linux.)
  • Linux Groups and User Directories. I‚Äôve received quite a few requests over the years for a listing of Linux User Groups or other Linux groups that want to collaborate more easily. I think our new site fulfills this need. Users can form groups, add existing ones and showcase their meet ups and events for others to find them.¬† In future phases we‚Äôll have this easily sortable by geography. There are already over 50 groups created since we launched the private beta.
  • Original Content. While we‚Äôre not a news site, we feature news and content from around the Internet, including content from our workgroups. But we also will feature original content such as
    • A case study on how the Gendarmerie have used Linux to cut costs
    • The Linux career guide for IT and developers and links to Linux Foundation training
    • A migration guide for Windows users interesting in moving to Linux
    • And check out the community blogs. Already some amazing content from the community.

I’d also like to thank our inaugural sponsors:  Intel, NetApp, Novell and Red Hat. It’s certainly no surprise to see those names associated with Linux but we truly appreciate their leadership in helping us make this site a reality. Most importantly, I’d like to hear from you: feedback, praise, complaints, bugs. You can reach me at amanda (at) linux dot com.

On second thought, you won’t get points for sending me an email, so you may prefer to comment on the site if you think you have what it takes to become the ultimate Linux guru.